In the wake of Hurricane Sandy the news is full of stories and pleas for help for its victims. The media has made much of a food/goods drive presidential candidate Mitt Romney held just after the hurricane. His campaign was scorned for collecting these items when they weren’t what’s needed; charities need cash, they tell us. For the record, I’m not interested in your politics–that isn’t what this is about (but go vote if you haven’t).
While it’s true that cash is the easiest and most expedient donation to make to the major charities, it doesn’t mean that’s the only donation you can make. If you can’t or don’t make cash donations to charity, your service and your donations are still wanted and needed. Please don’t stop giving because someone said charities only need cash. It’s just not true.
For those of you in a position to make a cash donation, please do so. My two favorite recipients of charitable funds are Latter-day Saint Charities, where 100% of every dollar donated goes to those in need without discrimination and the Red Cross, which does an amazing job of doing what needs to be done and has resources around the world.
Why I am a Fan of Non-Cash Donations
I grew up in Southern California and spent a good chunk of my adult life there as well. I’ve been through many natural disasters—fires, floods and even earthquakes. Thankfully, we’ve never suffered loss, though we had friends and neighbors who lost everything.
After the Northridge earthquake, my husband and I made a donation through LDS Charities. After watching the news, my young daughter wanted to know what we were doing to help. I explained that we were making a donation and had her help me send off the check. And then she said, “But what are we doing to help, Mom?” And I realized that money is great, but it wasn’t teaching my children how to give. So we watched a news broadcast that detailed some of the needs and then we went through our closets and gathered up blankets and extra clothes and non-perishable foods (and even a couple of favorite gently-loved toys) and together we drove to a Red Cross collection station where she was able to give her donations in person and know that she gave of herself to help someone else. Over the years, she—and my other children—have had many opportunities to not only give goods, but also to give their time to help others in need.
Yes, it was much more convenient for me to write a check, both for me and for the charity, but it didn’t teach my children what they needed to learn to become givers themselves.
How You Can Help
So, what can you do–because it’s pretty expensive and rather inconvenient to ship that can of green beans to New Jersey? You can still give. Giving those non-cash donations locally can free up cash resources that can be used to provide aid in other areas. I am sure a quick internet search will turn up dozens of organizations in your area that can put your gifts of goods and time to use locally. Since I am now in Denver, I’ll share with you a few of my Colorado favorites that, if you live here, can use your help—and if you don’t, might help you find similar causes in your area.
In addition to giving to charity, just look around. You can serve with your family in your own neighborhood. It’s a good bet you have a neighbor who could use a helping hand, whether it’s with a kind word, a car or home repair or a little yard work. A lack of funds should never equal a lack of service.
One word of caution: before you give to any charity, know who you are giving to. Sadly, in the wake of any disaster there are those who would profit from the misfortune of others and from your giving heart. Make sure your donations, of any kind, are going to a reputable and established charity with a track record of making those donations count.
Local Giving Opportunities
Here’s my quick list just based off the top of my head. These are all Denver charities because that’s where I live. I’m sure you have equivalent charities in your area. If you’re a Denver charitable organization and I didn’t include you, please stop over at my Facebook page and introduce yourself so we can get to know each other.
For the record, ALL of the organizations are happy to receive your cash donations if that’s your ability and your preference. They can also use your time, if you have it to give. And they can use your donations of goods. Please contact them directly for their specific needs and requirements.
Yes—they accept non-perishable food donations (as well as cash). If you have a child in school chances are their school is currently hosting a food drive. It’s a great opportunity to let your child help. But don’t just give those pantry mistakes away. Have them choose some of their favorites to share with another hungry child.
It’s getting cold and not everyone is fortunate enough to have a warm winter coat. Every fall we go through the closets and pull out all of the gently-worn outgrown coats and donate them to this organization. We also keep an eye out for great clearance deals at the end of the season that fit in our budget that we can donate for the next year.
If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know how much I love Goodwill. Not only do we shop there, we donate our used goods, too. Please if you are donating goods anywhere, donate only goods that are in quality, salable condition. If you wouldn’t wear it or use it because it’s worn out, badly soiled or needs repair, don’t give it to charity. When they have to pay to dispose of your garbage, it reduces their ability to help those in need.
And last, but not least, our family’s personal favorite charity. Not only have we donated gently-loved stuffed animals to be given to children in need around the world, we also donate our time here as well.
How do you give? And how do you feel about giving? Is cash the way to go or does giving of your goods or time work better for you? I’d love for you to share your thoughts and experiences with giving in the comment section below.